Cuenca’s rivers are running at dangerous levels due to rainfall

May 8, 2018

City residents are being warned to stay away from river banks, particularly in flood-prone areas. Rivers are running well above normal due to two days of moderate rainfall, according the Citizen Security Council.

Warning tape warns resident to stay away from the Rio Tomebamba on Cuenca’s west side. (El Tiempo)

On Monday, firefighters and members of the Cuenca Citizen Guard erected yellow “danger” tape to block river access at several locations on the Rios Tomebamba and Yanuncay.

The city utility company, ETAPA, reported that the Tomebamba and Yanuncay were running at ten times normal volume on Monday and that, in addition to the flooding danger, some river bank may collapse. “We ask everyone — sightseers, fishermen and clothes washers — to stay away from the rivers until the danger passes,” ETAPA said in a statement.

A landslide blocks access on the highway from Baños to Tena on Monday. (El Comercio)

According to ETAPA, city rivers pose a special danger because water levels can rise rapidly. “All rivers that flow through Cuenca rise within 20 kilometers of the city and can rise and fall dramatically within minutes,” an ETAPA spokeswoman said, adding that the South American continental divide is only 23 miles west of Cuenca.

“Rainfall amounts in the Cajas Mountains watershed are usually much greater than in the city, leading to rapid changes in river flow,” ETAPA added.

So far, Cuenca has not seen the level of flooding and landslides occurring in the northern and central sierra. Tungurahua, Chimborazo, Cotopaxi, Pinchincha, Bolívar, Imbabura Provinces have experienced numerous landslides, particularly on highways leading from the mountains to the jungle. The road from Baños to Tena and Puyo was closed most of Monday. Cuenca has also avoided the torrential thunder showers that have flooded parts of Quito since late last week.

Ecuador’s weather service says that rain will continue on Tuesday.

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